We note in passing this chapter has proved quite difficult to follow at times, and commentaries vary widely on what to make of it. However, some things seem rather obvious. We see the life cycle of human government, even among the Chosen People of Jehovah, always ends with a highly sophisticated and calculating plot to rob their very own.
Micah begins the chapter by describing how the rulers of the whole nation set about weakening the peasantry. Regulations hemmed them in, forcing them into a weaker position against the more wealthy and favored merchants. Monopolies were created and prices jacked up far beyond any semblance of market value. Predatory lending was carefully designed as a cover for plans to confiscate property. In every way, the promises of God under His Laws were frustrated, doing everything in their power to nullify His blessings. God counts this the same as declaring war on those over whom He had made them rulers. It was the ultimate perversion of their privileged role, an ungrateful slap in God’s face.
God’s response was to note, while they may well succeed in devouring the flock of God, their own fate would be worse. Those living in grinding poverty and oppression would find Assyrian captivity a relief, but the nobility and royalty would become slaves. The oppressed would mock them with a sarcastic lament of how all that stolen inheritance of land was divided among the Assyrian nobles. “What we have stolen has been stolen from us!” When God was through, the ruling class would be utterly erased from the Covenant.
These rulers had the arrogance to demand prophets such as Micah pipe down, to keep their impassioned pleas for justice out of their ears. They got all huffy and proposed rules and laws to silence such prophets, as if it were somehow undignified. They repeat the mantra about how Jehovah is so long suffering and patient, quoting the words out of context, and the prophets shouldn’t be so judgmental. So the Lord answers how cherry picking through His promises and ignoring the curses in the Covenant is intellectually dishonest. The promises apply only to those who embrace the whole Law of God, but the ruling class was in flagrant violation of the most basic and obvious commands. How easy it is to forget His Laws require a fundamental justice which granted favoritism to the weakest. These rulers were tossing single mothers out on the street on the flimsiest pretense of greedy perversions of His Laws. Ignoring the moral boundaries results in God removing His powerful hand of protection on their political boundaries. Their sin was an open invitation for invasion. On the other hand, if some smooth talking seer came along and prophesied of good times and easy luxury, they would throw their money at him, promoting him as the voice of Heaven. But that would be another god, not Jehovah.
The real God of Heaven and Earth did not act as they. Somewhere in the far future, He would call and gather the scattered remnants of His People. As with all such prophecies, we correctly see this on two levels. Those of the Northern Kingdom walking in faith did eventually come sneaking back home to live in Judah, and the Lord protected them. We have no idea how many escaped the Assyrian exile, but it was significant. Those lacking any commitment to the Covenant would have no reason to return. But we know on another level, the Lord would eventually open His Kingdom in Heaven to all humanity, and make of them the New Israel. So Micah contrasts how God operates against the rulers of both Samaria and Jerusalem.